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Construction Set to Begin on Red Line’s 95th Street Terminal

Rendering of the interior of the new 95th Street station.

Last year, the CTA completed the $425 million South Red Line reconstruction and last week the agency provided an update on the $203 million rehab of the Red Line’s Wilson stop. This morning, local politicians broke ground on another massive project to improve the backbone of the ‘L’ system: the $240 million reconstruction of the line’s 95th Street station.

The 95th Street stop can obviously use a facelift. When built in 1969 as part of the construction of the Dan Ryan expressway, with a design by Sears Tower architecture firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the terminal probably seemed like a gleaming, modern facility. Nowadays it feels like a relic from the Soviet era. Work will soon begin to transform station into a sleek, Jetsonesque structure that should create a safer, more pleasant environment for customers. The construction should be complete by 2017, and the stop will remain open throughout the project.

The current station. Photo: John Greenfield

Currently, the station has terrible pedestrian access, since broad, multilane streets surround it. The new facility will include buildings on the north and south side of 95th, connected by a skyway, so it will no longer be necessary for people approaching from the south to make an at-grade crossing of the six-lane street to catch a train.

The stop, which serves about 20,000 riders a day, is a multimodal hub. It sees more than 1,000 CTA and Pace bus trips on a typical weekday, and also serves as a stop for Greyhound and Indian Trail intercity buses. As part of the project, sidewalks outside the station will be widened, and larger bus waiting areas will be added. Wider bus lanes and more space between bus bays will improve traffic flow.

The new station will consist of two buildings connected by a skyway.

“45 years ago, the CTA opened the structure that we’re standing in right now,” said CTA Board Chair Terry Peterson at the event. “At the time, it was a modern, forward-thinking station, serving as a terminal for the new CTA Red Line. But what worked well in 1969 does not work well in 2014. Simply put, this station cannot effectively handle all the traffic it sees.”

“Not only does the station itself get crowded, but pedestrians have to weave in and out of bus traffic or use narrow sidewalks,” Peterson added. “The new terminal will provide a much more welcoming environment for passengers, while improving the flow of buses and making it easier and safer for pedestrians.”

Waiting for buses outside the current station. Photo: John Greenfield

CTA president Forrest Claypool touted the design of the more spacious new station, which includes glass-and-steel canopies and glass-enclosed structures, as well as public art by Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates. “The 95th Street terminal will look nothing like the building you see here today,” he said. “The new station will be bright, airy, and light-filled.”

Senator Dick Durbin claimed that a visit to the station is de rigueur for politicians seeking statewide office. “If you don’t come down to 95th and the Dan Ryan, shake hands and pass out literature, you don’t have a chance,” he quipped. “Every statewide candidate makes it down here. It’s like a pilgrimage. We know the crush of humanity, people coming off those buses, coming off those trains, trying to move through.”

“Well, good news,” Durbin said. “We’re going to have a new station because the Chicago Bears have been bringing the TIGERs home.” The senator explained that the city won a $20 million federal TIGER grant for the station in a competitive application process. The new facility is also being bankrolled by a federal TIFIA loan, a federal bus livibility grant, federal formula funds, state of Illinois Jobs Now funds, and CTA bonds.

Durbin speaks at this morning's event. Photo: John Greenfield

Veteran Congressman Bobby Rush said he’s excited that the project is creating over 700 construction jobs, many of which will go to South Siders. “We’re looking forward to the jobs, and the contracts that are going to the people who desperately need these economic opportunities,” he said.

Governor Pat Quinn noted that the shiny new station, which will include expanded retail concession space, should encourage more investment in the surrounding neighborhoods. “This is going to create a lot of economic growth around a major terminal, with opportunities for stores, creating more jobs,” he said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he took the Red Line to work this morning, and appreciated that the southern portion can now handle 55 mph train speeds as opposed to its old 15 mph average. He joked that, before the track rehab, bicyclists used to move faster than the ‘L’ cars. Emanuel added that the 95th Street project is in keeping with his goal “to have a station, and a train system, and a transportation system, that’s worthy being called the best in the nation.”

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